Ki­wiBuild or Ki­wi­bust

Hous­ing ini­tia­tive strug­gling for trac­tion with low bal­lot num­bers, write Stacey Kirk and Laine Moger.

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS -

Ki­wiBuild’s plum­met­ing pop­u­lar­ity could spell out Ki­wi­bust for the Govern­ment’s flag­ship pol­icy.

There are only 338 pre­qual­i­fied Ki­wiBuild ap­pli­cants, al­though the Govern­ment has signed off con­tracts for 3375 houses. It was forced to push out the Ki­wiBuild bal­lot dead­line in Wanaka, af­ter re­ceiv­ing just 20 en­tries for 10 homes.

Prop­erty de­vel­oper Alex Cas­sels is op­posed to Ki­wiBuild.

Cas­sels has been de­vel­op­ing af­ford­able rental homes in in­nercity Welling­ton, and says he has no de­sire to lobby the Govern­ment on the is­sues around Ki­wiBuild. He would pre­fer to get stuck in and just do what he can.

But he thinks the Govern­ment is talk­ing a lot while what is needed is peo­ple to ac­tu­ally pick up a ham­mer and a piece of wood.

He sees this as partly why the ini­tia­tive is get­ting no trac­tion.

‘‘For a vi­brant and di­verse ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment you want af­ford­able priced ac­com­mo­da­tion in close prox­im­i­ties to cities. Young peo­ple want a place to live to start their life jour­ney and we are send­ing them on that jour­ney with a struggle,’’ Cas­sels says.

Na­tional Party hous­ing spokes­woman Ju­dith Collins agrees, say­ing it’s time to ques­tion Ki­wiBuild’s fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity.

‘‘If Mr Twyford can’t sell the houses he has bought off the plans, the Govern­ment will be forced to pay this money. This will eas­ily blow his $2 bil­lion bud­get and cause the whole scheme to come crash­ing down,’’ Collins says, adding that the pol­icy is now a ‘‘com­plete sham­bles’’.

‘‘Houses are too ex­pen­sive and too small. The min­is­ter isn’t build­ing enough houses, he isn’t sell­ing enough houses, and those few that are sold aren’t go­ing to the peo­ple that need them.’’ Twyford de­clined to comment. A spokesman for Ki­wiBuild said while 338 peo­ple had com­pleted the bal­lot process, a fur­ther 6648 ap­pli­cants had be­gun the pre-qual­i­fi­ca­tion process and a to­tal of 45,764 peo­ple had reg­is­tered for Ki­wiBuild up­dates.

‘‘Ki­wiBuild en­cour­ages peo­ple to regis­ter on our web­site so they can keep up to date with the homes be­ing an­nounced, but they don’t need to go through the process of pre-qual­i­fy­ing and en­ter­ing a bal­lot un­til a home that they want to buy be­comes avail­able,’’ the spokesman said.

The num­ber of bal­lot en­tries var­ied from place to place.

‘‘We are sat­is­fied with the bal­lots so far, which have al­ready re­sulted in the 33 fam­i­lies buy­ing their Ki­wiBuild home. An­other 53 Ki­wiBuild homes are cur­rently be­ing bal­loted – a mix of com­pleted homes and ‘off the plans’ houses that were still be­ing

Young peo­ple want a place to live to start their life jour­ney – and we are send­ing them on that jour­ney with a struggle. Prop­erty de­vel­oper Alex Cas­sels

built.’’

Econ­o­mist Shamubeel Eaqub says low bal­lot fig­ures did not point to any like­li­hood of loss on un­sold homes. At worst, he says, the Govern­ment would on-sell a home at the price it paid for it, and to buy­ers who may not have orig­i­nally qual­i­fied for Ki­wiBuild.

Official ad­vice showed it was al­ways go­ing to run out of buy­ers: build­ing dif­fer­ent kinds of homes, to lift home own­er­ship rates was the orig­i­nal goal, Eaqub says.

‘‘We don’t build th­ese mod­est style of homes any more. We tend to build them grand and ex­pen­sive so they can only be bought by those in the mar­ket al­ready, or the rich.’’

First-home buy­ers still had to front a de­posit and be able to sus­tain the mort­gage re­pay­ments, so high in­comes were still needed.

Ju­dith Collins says Phil Twyford’s houses are too small.

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